Forty Jewish survivors of the Nazi Holocaust and 287 descendants and relatives of survivors and victims from 26 countries signed a letter, published in the New York Times on Saturday 23 August, condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza. “As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine.” The letter, with signatories from 26 countries representing four generations of survivors and descendants, ran on page A13 of the Saturday, August 23rd edition of the New York Times. Signatories to the letter will be hosting a press conference on Monday, August 25th, 2014 at 11am Eastern Time, 4pm British Summer Time.
This letter is a powerful and clear message from Jews around the world – Never Again mean Never Again for Anyone. The letter will also counter Elie Wiesel’s attempt to justify the attacks on Gaza by manipulating the legacy of the Nazi genocide.
You can see a full listing of signers here.
On August 15th, the statement was also published as a letter in the London Guardian. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has also asked to run the ad in the Belfast Telegraph next week.
Together, we will continue to be a clear and uncompromising voice against Israeli colonialism and apartheid and for justice, particularly for the Palestinian people.
The letter has been reported by Ha’aretz and the BBC among others. As of 9pm Eastern Time on Saturday the Ha’aretz article had received more than 15,000 facebook likes and had been shared on twitter nearly 5,000 times.
The Holocaust survivors expressed gratitude for the opportunity to express their dismay over Israel’s assault and misrepresentation of their shared history. Liliana Kaczerginski, daughter of a Vilna ghetto resistance fighter, said “What Israel is doing goes against everything that my father fought for; it is a violation of my family’s memory and I am proud to honor them with my signature.”
Hajo Meyer, a survivor of Auschwitz and the initial signatory to the letter expressed outrage at the racism coming out of Israel. “The dehumanization of Jews is what made possible the Nazi genocide. In the same way, we are witnessing the escalating dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society,” he said. [Meyer passed away on 8/22/2014, the day before the letter ran in the New York Times.]
The letter was penned in response to an inflammatory ad campaign in which Elie Wiesel compares the murder of children during the Holocaust to Hamas’ actions in Gaza. Wiesel’s ad—which ran in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and the Guardian among others—was so distasteful that the Times of London declined to run it and the Guardian published this response for free. In the letter, the survivors write, “we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children.”
Dr. Hani Jamah, a Palestinian living in California who lost 30 family members in an Israeli bombing said, “When Israel started it’s bombardment of Gaza, I turned on the news and discovered that 30 of my aunts and cousins had died in a single bomb blast. Joining my voice with 40 survivors of the Nazi genocide adds power to our call that we must work together to bring justice to Gaza.”
“With the growing number of people around the world holding Israel accountable for its genocidal crimes, I applaud the courageous statements by holocaust survivors and their families being on the right side of justice,” said Monadel Herzallah, who is part of the US Palestinian Community Network and has family in Gaza. “Our children and grandchildren inside of Gaza deserve a life of believing that Never Again means Never Again for Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime.”
Raphael Cohen, grandson of survivors who lives in the United States, called on people to take action to demand justice for Palestinians. “It is my own government paying for this violence. When governments won’t do what’s right, individuals and communities must speak out. That’s why I support the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions.”
The signatories hope that their letter will strengthen the claim that the legacy of Jewish suffering must mean never again for anyone, least of all, to be used in defense of Israeli violence.